In Memoriam: Eleanor Winsor Leach

(Provided by Ann Vasaly [FAAR 1983, RAAR 2010])

Eleanor Winsor Leach (1937-2018)

On February 19th it was learned that Eleanor Winsor Leach, Ruth N. Halls Professor of Classics at Indiana University, had passed away at the age of 80.  At the suggestion of Brian Rose, I wanted to take the opportunity to write to the Advisory Council of the important role she played in her chosen profession and her devotion throughout her career to the American Academy.

Let me begin with Ellie’s contribution to scholarship.  Aside from the sheer quantity of her work (three books published, with a fourth book recently completed, more than 50 articles, more than 100 lectures), one is struck by its coherence.  Beginning with her Yale dissertation on Ovid and Chaucer, she always displayed a strong interdisciplinary bent, seeking to read Latin texts, especially poetry of the Augustan period, against their contemporary social, political, and cultural background.  Her subtle analyses of an astonishing range of Latin authors led to new ways of looking at literary texts—at once closely tied to particular authors, yet at the same time reflecting in complex ways various aspects of a broader cultural mentalité.  Starting in the 1980’s, Ellie also began to integrate the study of Roman painting, monuments, and topography into her work on ancient literature, bringing insights to visual narrativity in particular that complemented her explorations of textual narrative.  While she eventually won widespread acceptance as a leading exponent of form and meaning in these fields, I well remember a time when courage and persistence were required for her to continue these studies, as she met a good deal of resistance from some established figures in the field.  Ellie was thus a scholar of extraordinary commitment and talent, who created over the course of her career a remarkable body of work as well as an extensive network of scholars, young and old, with whom she communicated, since her passion for scholarship made her eager to share her own ideas and hear those of others.  

While many scholars of correspondingly high stature devote the majority of their time to research and writing, contributing much less extensively to pedagogy, administration, or service to the field, Ellie’s vita includes almost as many lines devoted to the latter areas — including presidency of the Society of Classical Studies (formerly, the American Philological Association) — as those listing her publications.  While raising a daughter, teaching a diverse range of courses, chairing her department for an extended period (1975-1985), and serving her university and the profession in a wide variety of leadership roles, she directed more than twenty dissertations, wrote letters for some 200 tenure and promotion cases, and refereed more than 100 books and 200 articles for various presses and journals.  Her impact, then, on a generation of scholars, especially younger scholars, was extensive, especially reflected by the presence of many of her former students in classics departments throughout the country.

Ellie’s association with, and deep affection for, the Academy goes back many years, beginning with service on the Classical Jury from 1980-1982 and a stay as Resident in Fall of 1983.  In subsequent years (1986, 1989, 2008) she conducted three NEH summer seminars at the Academy, which in many cases proved seminal for the work of the students and faculty who took part in them.  In recent years she has been a familiar presence at the annual Classical Summer School, frequently accompanying the group on site visits and generously volunteering to give guest lectures on monuments, wall painting, and Roman topography.  The Classical Summer School was, in fact, very much on her mind in the last months of her life.  As she contemplated the final disposition of her affairs, she decided nothing could give her greater satisfaction than to earmark as a special gift to the CSS a generous sum that had accrued from bonds long ago purchased for her by her parents and which had matured over the course of her lifetime. 

It is therefore a solace for those of us who knew and admired her to realize that the impact of her vivid presence and dynamic intelligence will continue to be felt long into the future: through her many publications, her inspiring teaching, her lively conversations, and her generous donation to the Academy.

(Compiled by Matt Christ, with contributions from Ann Vasaly and Teresa Ramsby)

Eleanor Winsor Leach, Ruth N. Halls Professor of Classical Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, died on Friday, February 16, at the age of 80. It was characteristic of her indomitable spirit and absolute commitment to her field that she remained active as teacher and scholar up until the very end of her life. She will be remembered as an innovative scholar, a dedicated teacher and mentor, and a major contributor to her profession.

Ellie was born on August 16, 1937, in Providence, Rhode Island. Although her career ultimately brought her to the Midwest, she remained a New Englander at heart who was undaunted by Bloomington winters as a veteran of many a nor’easter. Her undergraduate years at Bryn Mawr College, where she took her A.B. magna cum laude with honors in Latin in 1959, not only laid the foundation for her future vocation but steeled her to enter a discipline and profession dominated at that time by men; she spoke frequently and fondly of her years at Bryn Mawr, and was a proud and loyal alumna. Ellie went on to earn her Ph.D. in English and Latin at Yale in 1963 with a dissertation on Ovid and Chaucer, which was a precursor of her interdisciplinary bent throughout her career. Ellie went on to teach at Bryn Mawr (1962-66), Villanova University (1966-71), University of Texas at Austin (1972-74), and Wesleyan University (1974-76). In 1977, she moved to Indiana University, Bloomington, as the only tenured woman in the Department of Classical Studies at the time, and soon became chair (1978-1985); later, she served as Director of Graduate Studies for nearly twenty years (1997-2016).

The wide scope of Ellie’s scholarship is attested by the titles of her four books:  Vergil's Eclogues: Landscapes of Experience (Ithaca, 1974); The Rhetoric of Space: Literary and Artistic Representations of Landscape in Republican and Augustan Rome

(Princeton, 1988); The Social Life of Painting in Ancient Rome and on the Bay of Naples (Cambridge, 2004); and Epistolary Dialogues: Constructions of Self and Others in the Letters of Cicero and the Younger Pliny (forthcoming with the University of Michigan Press). Ellie sought to read Latin texts against their contemporary social, political, and cultural background. Her subtle analyses of an astonishing range of Latin authors led to new ways of looking at literary texts—at once closely tied to particular authors, yet at the same time reflecting in complex ways various aspects of a broader cultural mentalité. Starting in the 1980’s, Ellie also began to integrate the study of Roman painting, monuments, and topography into her work on ancient literature, bringing insights to visual narrativity in particular that complemented her explorations of textual narrative. While she eventually won widespread acceptance as a leading exponent of form and meaning in these fields, courage and persistence were required for her to continue these studies, as she met a good deal of resistance from some established figures in the field. Ellie set forth her ideas not only through her books but in over fifty articles and over a hundred invited lectures in the US and the UK, including numerous titled lectures. Her original and creative work won her ACLS, NEH, and Guggenheim fellowships, and many other awards and distinctions.

As teacher and mentor, Ellie had a huge impact on her students, especially on the twenty-six graduate students who wrote dissertations under her guidance at Indiana University. As a classroom instructor, Ellie conveyed her love of ideas, whether in the year-long graduate survey of Latin Literature she taught in alternate years or her introduction to literary criticism for classicists; she encouraged her students to test out new approaches to classical texts, and took great pleasure in the discoveries they made and their pursuit of these in professional papers, dissertations, articles, and books. Her commitment to her students did not stop when they received their degrees, as she supported and mentored them as they pursued their own careers in classics; she regarded her students as part of her extended family, and took great pleasure in hearing of their personal and professional adventures after leaving Indiana University. Ellie’s personal touch was also evident in the way she cultivated a community among graduate students, whom she entertained frequently in her home (her annual celebration of Horace’s birthday was a major event). As one current graduate student put it, “She was just an absolute treasure.”

Ellie’s service to her profession was remarkable. While her contributions to the Society for Classical Studies (formerly, the American Philological Association) culminated in her presidency in 2005, she served it in a wide range of capacities, from fund-raising to membership on the Publications Committee; as Vice-President for the Program Division (1991-94), she helped usher in a new, more open process for members to participate in, and organize panels, for the annual program. She was a trustee of the Vergilian Society (1978-93) and second and then first vice-president of it (1989-92). Ellie’s association with, and deep affection for, the American Academy in Rome, began with service on the Classical Jury (1980-82) and a stay as Resident (Fall 1983).  In subsequent years (1986, 1989, 2008) she conducted three NEH summer seminars at the Academy, which in many cases proved seminal for the work of the students and faculty who took part in them; in recent years, she was a familiar presence at the annual Classical Summer School, frequently accompanying the group on site visits and generously volunteering to give guest lectures on monuments, wall painting, and Roman topography. She was active in regional classical associations, especially CAMWS, and closer to home, was a great supporter of the Indiana Classical Conference, and served as president of the central Indiana chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America (1985-87). Less conspicuous, but equally impressive, is the fact that Ellie wrote letters for some 200 tenure and promotion cases, and refereed more than 100 books and 200 articles for various presses and journals.

Although Ellie’s vocation as classicist occupied her seven days a week, she had many other interests and passions. She was an avid reader of literature, ancient and modern; a devotee of NPR (she never owned a TV); a lover of opera (every Saturday afternoon, she listened to the Metropolitan Opera on her radio at her office); and a fan of baseball, which she regarded as a more cerebral sport than football. Ellie loved to travel, especially to Italy, where work and pleasure came together for her almost every summer. Her many students, friends, colleagues, and peers all over the world are very sorry for her passing, and will long remember her. She was a consummate scholar and teacher, and an inspiration to all who knew her. Ellie is survived by her daughter, Harriet, of Louisville, Kentucky, and her former husband, Peter, of St. Louis, Missouri.

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(Photo 1: "Candle" by Shawn Carpenter, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo 2: "Eleanor Winsor Leach" by Teresa Ramsby, used with permission)   

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The new Classics Everywhere initiative, recently launched by the SCS, supports projects that seek to introduce and engage communities all over the US with the worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity in new and meaningful ways. During the first round of applications, the SCS funded 13 projects, ranging from performances and a cinema series to educational programs and inter-institutional collaborations. In this post we focus on four programs that engaged audiences with the study of Greek and Roman antiquity and its connection to our modern world through the visual and performing arts.

The mythical past was a great source of inspiration not only for the Athenian 5th century playwrights, but also for many artists in the performing and visual arts ever since. The Greeks performed and dramatized stories from a mythologized history to explore emerging tensions between family and community values, gender dynamics, human relationships, the definition of justice, and the role of the divine world in human life. Putting these stories on the theatrical stage during their city’s most important festivals served to encourage audiences to think about the organization and structure of their society, their policies, and values.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/23/2019 - 8:04pm by Nina Papathanasopoulou.

Topic:  Hindsight in 2020

The saying “hindsight is 20/20” refers to the notion that it is easier to evaluate choices and understand events and their consequences after they have already occurred. Your task is to imagine how a historical, literary, or mythological figure from antiquity might have acted differently if they knew then what we know now. You may choose to focus on a single event and its repercussions or examine a pattern of behavior or a general character trait in light of current knowledge.

Contest Parameters and Judging

This contest is open to any student enrolled full-time in high school anywhere in the world during the current school year. An award of $250 will be given to the author of the best entry, which may take the form of a short story, essay, play, poem, or original literary work of any other sort.

Entries will be judged on accuracy to ancient sources, appropriate use of those sources, originality, quality of material, thematic development, correctness of English style, and effectiveness of presentation.

Contest Guidelines

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:19am by Erik Shell.

At a 2010 forum at the New York Public Library featuring Harvard professor Cornel West and Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), Prof. West recalled one of his seminars at Princeton, which had featured a panel of Jay-Z, Toni Morrison, and Phylicia Rashad. West recalled discussing how Plato “made the world safe for Socrates, so the people would remember the name of Socrates forever,” and Jay-Z replied, “Well I have been playing Plato to Biggie’s Socrates.” As it turns out, there is a great deal of classical allusion to unpack in the world of hip-hop, many embedded within the lyrics of Jay-Z.


Figure 1: Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates (1787).
(Image via Wikimedia Commons).

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/16/2019 - 4:42pm by Samuel Ortencio Flores.

"Motion and Migrancy in the Formation of Roman Literature"

Joy Connolly, Interim President and Distinguished Professor of Classics, Graduate Center CUNY

8th Floor Faculty/Staff Dining Room, Hunter West Building
SW Lexington Ave & 68th St.
 
Friday, May 17th, 2019
  • 4:30 - 5:00 Pre-Lecture Reception
  • 5:00 - 5:30 Student Award Ceremony
  • 5:30 - 6:30 Lecture
  • 6:30 - 7:00 Post-Lecture Reception

This lecture is free and open to the public.

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(Photo: "Empty Boardroom" by Reynermedia, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 05/14/2019 - 2:09pm by Erik Shell.
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The Digital Latin Library has published a blog post detailing new its new website, upcoming text releases, and other new features.

You can read the blog post here: https://digitallatin.org/blog/updates-ldlt

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(Photo: “Switch!" by Andrew Hart, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in Classics in the News on Mon, 05/13/2019 - 9:15am by Erik Shell.

This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Vivian A. Laughlin, who recently defended her dissertation on the Roman imperial appropriation of Serapis this spring.

While excavating at Hadrian’s Villa in 2015 with Columbia University I noticed that there were various architectural designs and material culture that appeared to be influenced by Egyptian culture. Then when roaming through various parts of the city of Rome, I began to see similar aesthetic references to Egyptian iconography in many places from Augustus’ House on the Palatine to Roman imperial works within various museums throughout the city. I questioned the Egyptian iconography I saw and why the visual references were being made. The more I questioned it, the more it created a burgeoning reason to investigate further and to better understand the relationship between Rome and Egypt. It was almost as if the material culture was speaking to my soul.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 05/10/2019 - 6:40am by Vivian A. Laughlin.

The SCS is proud to announce that it is now hosting the newest version of Joy Connolly's "Going on the Market...and What Comes Before," a detailed and practical guide to preparation for the academic job market.

The text is hosted on the SCS website here, and can be found on the Placement Service toolbar.

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(Photo: "_DSC7061" by rhodesj, licensed under CC BY 2.0)

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:13am by Erik Shell.

CfP: The spatial turn in Roman studies

Auckland, January 22-24 2020
Durham, June 10-12 2020

Organised by Amy Russell and Maxine Lewis

We write to announce two international conferences plus a year-long programme of events in Durham on the theme ‘The spatial turn in Roman studies’. This is the call for papers for the Auckland conference, 22-24 January 2020. A call for papers for the Durham conference will follow.

View full article. | Posted in Calls for Papers on Thu, 05/09/2019 - 9:03am by Erik Shell.

By Urmila Mohan and Courtney O’Dell-Chaib

Scholars of religion have developed a framework for exploration of interactions between religion and tangible objects called "material religion." Over the past two decades, the focus within the study of material religion has emphasised object agency, aesthetics and networks. Disseminated in part by the journal Material Religion, a materialised study of religion explores religiosity as inseparable from a matrix of components including people, divine forces, institutions, things, places and communities. However, what still remains to be unpacked is a focus on the way material religion takes place globally. That is not merely editing case studies from different parts of the world based on theory generated in the West, but trying to see how vectors of bodies, affect, objects and ecologies might generate new theoretical approaches and data based on close cultural or ethnographic analyses.

View full article. | Posted in on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 4:47pm by .

(From the University of Mississippi's website)

Former University of Mississippi professor Lucy Turnbull will always be remembered as a beloved educator who could make her curriculum both easy to understand and infinitely interesting to her students, a mentor and a champion of civil rights at Ole Miss.

Her enthusiasm for the classics was contagious, which propelled her students to success in her art history, archaeology, mythology and classical civilization courses. Turnbull, 87, of Oxford, joined the university faculty in 1961 and taught until 1990. She died Sunday (April 21).

Dewey Knight, recently retired UM associate director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, was one of Turnbull’s friends. He entered the university as a freshman in 1966 and found himself in one of her classes that year.

“She walked into the classroom that first day,” Knight said. “There were about 25 of us, and we were immediately very afraid of Professor Turnbull. She was incredibly intelligent. She could read Greek like we read English.

“We all were in fear of her, but we had the ultimate respect for her, because it was very obvious she was brilliant.”

View full article. | Posted in In Memoriam on Thu, 05/02/2019 - 8:39am by Erik Shell.

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